Donavan never took the dare. Good thing, one would suppose, considering his long legs and towering frame. But there were those who did. Sorry? Some were; some were not. But all remember the day in 1841 when Don and his friends took the plunge and found their fate in depth of Camden’s Cave.
It lies somewhere near Mystic, Connecticut. Poor Donavan, lanky youth that he was, had been left atop to call for aid should some unforeseen mishap occur. “If we ain’t back in two hours or so,” Raspin told him, “you go runnin’ for help.”
With those few words, four youths disappeared in the bowels of God’s green earth and Donavan took a seat on a rock for a long wait. It wasn’t more that a hole in the ground from where Donovan sat but rumor was the cave opened to a massive cavern of cathedral proportions. Somewhere down there, they said, was stowed the treasures from a British scooner, hidden from the Yanks back in 1812; fortune enough for a thousand men.
“I ain’t goin’,” Donavan told them. “Don’t wanna get stuck down there.”
“Have it your way,” Henry warned. “But who goes keeps the gold.”
Donavan agreed. There wasn’t enough gold in all Connecticut worth risking one’s life for, he decided. And so he sat gazing from the rim of the hill toward the open Atlantic.
It was so dark you could feel the black, said Henry, once they’d gone a few hundred yards. Latterns and a good stock of coal oil kept the dark away until Tanner decided to douse it just to see what it was like. That set the other three to howling. It took Raspin nearly half an hour to get enough spark to set the flame again. It was damp in that cave.
It was Camden's cave, he decided, figuring he had discovered it. “And if you help me find the Brits’ gold,” he promised, “I’ll give you all a half to share in thirds.” To that they agreed.
Watching the ships sail on the open sea was a past time Donavan cherished. He’d often make his way to the docks and watch half-drunken sailors tote barrels and wooden crates off the vessels, then load them up again with more cargo bound for some unknown destination.
Four bug-eyed boys had stumbled through a quarter mile of granite and sandstone. It was a sight to behold, they said. Like nothing they’d ever seen before.
With that they plodded on, holding lanterns high and dreaming of fortunes. Camden wanted a horse farm that would be the envy of the nation. Raspin figured he’d move westward and find a nice girl to marry, maybe buy a farm and raise corn and such. The other two told of similar plans. Henry wanted to give his momma enough money to quit her work as a seamstress and Tanner wanted to start a school for the Indians in the Ohio Valley.
It was forty years that passed before the boys met again. Camden hadn’t far to travel, he never moved away from Mystic. Found himself a job as a lawyer in town and wound up serving a mayor. Raspin found a nice girl to marry and had twelve kids to prove it. He moved westward, but no farther than Bridgeport. Folks there had a need for good footwear and his shop at the corner of Fifth and Main kept many in fine shoes for years. Henry loved his farm and Tanner got his school in Ohio, but it wasn’t funded by the gold in Camden’s Cave.
There was no gold buried behind some bolder deep in the hills of Connecticut. But there was treasure in the hearts and souls of five young men who dared to dream and find their ways in life. Most of all was Donavan whose love for ships and commerce led him to build a business bringing goods to the likes of Camden, Rapsin, Henry and Tanner.
And there they were; in their fifties now, satisfied with dreams of gold they found on that sunny day in 1841.